How to Make an Impression

Mario VittonePhotographed by Kaitlyn KumarooMario Vittone, a chief warrant officer with the Coast Guard, lost his father as a child.

My father was 44 and knew he wasn’t going to make it to 45. He wanted to say something of value that would help me for the rest of my life. I’ve read the letter countless times since my mother gave it to me. One part always stands out. “Right now, you are pretending to be a goof-off,” he wrote. “But I know that one day, you will do something great that will set you among the very best.”

Since the day I was 12 and first read his words, they have lived in my heart. Growing up knowing that my dad believed in me gave me permission to believe in myself. “You will do something great.” He didn’t know what that would be, and neither did I, but at times in my life when I’ve felt proud of myself, I remember my father’s words and wish he were here so I could ask, “Is this what you were talking about, Dad? Should I keep going?”

A long way from 12 now, I realize that my father would have been proud when I graduated from basic training. He would have been proud that I became a Coast Guard rescue swimmer. He would have loved to be there when some admiral pinned a medal on my chest. Lately, though, I’ve come to believe he’d want me to move on to what comes next: to be proud of, and believe in, someone else.

It’s time to start writing my own letters to my children. It’s time for all of us to. Our children look to us with the same unanswered question we had. “Is this it, Daddy? Am I doing good?” It’s why every child growing up says, “Watch me.” Our kids don’t hold back because they are afraid to fail. They are only afraid of failing us. They do not worry about being disappointed. Their fear—as mine was until my father’s letter—is of being a disappointment.

Give your child permission to succeed. If you don’t have children, then write a letter to someone who looks up to you. You know who they are. They are waiting for you to believe in them. I always knew my parents loved me. But trust me: That belief will be more complete, that love will be more real, and their belief in themselves will be greater if you write the words on their hearts: “Don’t worry; you will do something great.” Not having that blessing from someone they love may be the only thing holding them back.

Become more interesting every week!

Get our Read Up newsletter

how we use your e-mail

Some people like to travel by train because 
it combines the slowness of a car with the cramped public exposure of 
an airplane.

Dennis Miller

I think my pilot was a little inexperienced. We were sitting on the runway, and he said, “OK, folks, we’re gonna be taking off in a just few—whoa! Here we go.”

Kevin Nealon

“I can’t wait until your vacation is over.” 
—Everyone following you on Instagram


A man knocked on my door and asked for a donation toward the local swimming pool. So I gave him a glass of water.

Comedian Greg Davies

Funny Jokes

Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.


Funny Jokes

Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.


Funny Jokes

My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me 
everything you know.”


Funny Jokes

“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” 

@yoyoha (Josh Hara)

Funny Jokes

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.

—Jerry Seinfeld

Funny Jokes

Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?

A: A mechanic.